Qaddafi's death lifts the morale of the besieged protestors in countries like Syria and Yemen. Had Qaddafi survived, and was successful in seeking sanctuary in a third country, or worse, mobilizing Libyan tribes against the new government, then the transition to democracy would have been more costly. Qaddafi, the longest-ruling and most pompous of Arab dictators dying so ignominiously will also strike fear in the hearts of monarchs and presidents who are yet to yield to popular demands for reform in the region.
But in Qaddafi's death were also clues to the real risks of chaos and extremism that can spread in the region. The lack of Arab outcry, for example, about the public manhandling, and mobile-phone recording of his blood-stained corpse by his killers is an indication that yesterday's rebels are not necessarily prepared to embrace democratic culture. Like the Nazis at Nuremburg, why was Qaddafi not put on trial after capture? But killed and a baying mob allowed to parade and cheer around him?